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State's New Pot Prevention Campaign Focuses on Youth, Breastfeeding Moms

Marijuana use is believed to be dangerous during pregnancy, but studies are limited.
Marijuana use is believed to be dangerous during pregnancy, but studies are limited.
iStock/ruizluquepaz

Colorado's latest marijuana prevention campaign hopes to appeal to the usual suspects, including children, teenagers and young adults. But it's added a new target for public awareness: moms.

Starting in June, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's new Responsibility Grows Here public education initiative wants to teach new and expecting mothers about the possible health effects of using marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The campaign will be separated into four phases, according to the CDPHE. Its first offensive will target Coloradans ages twelve to twenty and adult marijuana users (both tourists and residents). The next stage takes aim at "trusted adults" and breastfeeding women. While the state has been proactive with youth marijuana prevention and impaired-driving campaigns since Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, the new campaigns are a shift toward more specific demographics, according to Governor John Hickenlooper.

“Since legalization, we have worked with Coloradans every step of the way to address concerns and navigate changes,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “These campaigns connect more directly with those using marijuana and will hopefully drive home the message of what is safe and legal use.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a Denver Health study that found that the majority of Colorado dispensary employees — 69 percent — recommended that pregnant women use marijuana. The study was conducted by "mystery caller" phone conversations, with lead author Dr. Torri Metz telling Westword that she expected its results to be incorporated into future CDPHE public education projects.

A 2016 university study assessed possible links between cannabis consumption while pregnant and birth defects.
A 2016 university study assessed possible links between cannabis consumption while pregnant and birth defects.
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Media targeting moms will tell them about the negative health effects of using marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding and encourage women to talk with their healthcare providers, according to the CDPHE. However, there is a faction of the medical community that isn't quite sold on marijuana's negative effects on fetuses and breast milk, citing the lack of conclusive evidence and clinical studies around the topics. Still, even those physicians generally tell their patients to stay away from marijuana while pregnant or breastfeeding and to only use small amounts when absolutely necessary.

Part of Responsibility Grows Here will feature a new character dubbed Meg the Budtender, "a fictional spokesperson who will begin talking to Colorado adults about safe storage, appropriate places to use and not use marijuana, and the difference between smoking marijuana and consuming edibles," the campaign's announcement reads, citing "new research" that shows marijuana users often rely on budtenders for information.

The youth prevention campaign, which launched along with the adult-user initiative on Monday, May 21, will try to show kids how early marijuana use can derail them from reaching their goals in life.

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"Research shows youth respond best to messages that demonstrate how marijuana use can keep them from achieving their dreams, whether those dreams include excelling in athletics, getting a good education or building a successful career," according to the CDPHE announcement.

Initiatives aimed at "trusted adults," or someone who uses their voice to tell young people not use marijuana, will launch alongside the breastfeeding campaign in mid-June, according to the department. Each phase will use specific media that appeals to its targeting audience, using social media for youth campaigns while still implementing radio, television and online ads.

“We’ve worked hard over the past four years to educate Coloradans on the basic laws, responsibilities and health effects of marijuana use,” said CDPHE director and chief medical officer Larry Wolk in the statement. “With these new campaigns, we’re focusing on those most affected by marijuana use to make sure they obey the laws, stay safe and become positive role models for Colorado youth.”

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